Belief in certain persistent food myths is one of the most common ways that people can get down on their nutritional intake. Sure, you already use a well-organized meal management system like the Innovator 300
or Renee Tote
, but you also have to make sure you're packing it with the right foods. That's why we offer guides like our How to Meal Prep
series and recipes
for Meal Prep Sundays, but today we're delving into a different aspect: food that seems good, but just isn't.
Juice, whether of the store-bought, name brand variety, the kind advertised in easy-fix juice cleanses, or ones you'll find at trendy juice bars, isn't necessarily healthy just by virtue of being juice. The hidden danger in all
these types of juices is the added sugar. You also need to be wary of how much fruit is in the drink; fruits add the sweetness people crave, but they also add unneeded sugar. Avoid this problem by remembering your greens. (Throw some cucumber into your next drink, to utilize but one greatly underrated green.) Lastly, keep an eye on the servings in a bottle. You may think you're only drinking 100 or so calories – until you realize the bottle is two servings!
INSTEAD: You can always snack on fruits and veggies themselves to enjoy their health benefits. But if you love juice, invest in a juice press and/or blender and commit to making your own juices and smoothies. This way, you're in control and can easily sidestep all the hidden sugar the juice companies are loading up your drinks with.
When you're on the go, it's easy to fall prey to common food myths. Sometimes the lure of a fast food salad seems so seductive; it's a salad – how bad could a salad ever be? The truth is that just like juice is not healthy by virtue of being juice, a salad isn't healthy just because it's a salad. Ingredients like meats, cheeses, croutons, and especially the dressing can all add unnecessary calories and sodium to what initially seemed like a healthy lunch, ready to go.
INSTEAD: If you're going out to a restaurant, you can always ask that certain ingredients be left off your salad. Most places are happy to fulfill dietary requests, just make sure to ask politely and always treat your server with patience and appreciation. Alternatively, keep things simple by always having your meal management system handy and packed with your own homemade salad, where you can control portions and ingredients for maximum health.
Special K Cereal
Due to the popularity and ubiquity of the Special K challenge, which promises an alluring loss of "up to 6 pounds in 14 days" by eating their products in conjunction with a standard dinner, one of the most common food myths is that any product labeled Special K is healthier than other similar products. (You're undoubtedly familiar with their cereal/granola bars and breakfast drinks as well.) The brand is nothing but a brand, however, and when the nutritional label is studied, you see that even though the calories aren't high, the first few ingredients are sugar, and the amount of fiber is under a gram.
INSTEAD: Avoid cereal altogether and turn to oats. Oats contain a certain type of fiber known as beta-glucan, which studies have shown to have a beneficial effect on cholesterol. If you need a little bit of sweetness, throw in some pieces of fruit or a dab of honey.
Whole-Wheat / Multi-Grain Bread
Bread is tricky, and choosing the best kind to eat involves traversing a perilous forest of food myths. One of the most persistent is that bread labeled whole-wheat or multi-grain is automatically better for you than white bread. While it is true that these breads are somewhat better than white bread, they're only marginally better at best. The standard for mass brands is to use refined grains, so if you really want to eat the healthiest bread, you better teach yourself to consult the nutritional label every time. If you see the words refined, bleached, or unbleached enriched wheat flour, chances are that you're not going to get the health benefits you think you are. Also be aware of multi-grain as opposed to whole-grain breads, as the latter offers the most health benefits.
INSTEAD: Read the label to make sure you're getting actual whole-grain or whole-wheat bread every time. If you're in a restaurant, you don't have much of a choice in bread like you do with salad ingredients, so your best bet is just to remove some and only eat half.
Flavored Greek Yogurt
It's no secret that Greek yogurt has exploded in popularity in recent years. The large amount of protein this tasty food provides is enough to make people go nuts over its health benefits, but the downside to the booming popularity is food companies looking to exploit the craze. You'll see dozens of intriguing Greek yogurt flavors if you walk down any dairy aisle, but in order to be healthy, you should stay away. How do you think they add all those intriguing flavors, after all? Fake sweeteners, extra sugar, and artificial flavors are all reasons to stay away from flavored yogurt.
INSTEAD: Stick with the plain variety, and always make sure to check the ingredient label to make sure your plain yogurt is truly plain. If you're craving sweetness, you can add pieces of fruit, raw whole nuts, and/or honey to create your very own healthy parfait.
If you bought into any of these food myths, we don't really blame you. Some of them are incredibly tantalizing, such as the beauty of getting all your servings of fruits and veggies in a juice or a cereal that can help you lose weight, but we're all familiar with the feeling of when something is just too good to be true. The good news is that you can stay ahead of the tricks played by the large food companies, as long as you know what to look for on packaging. Keep your eyes peeled for any ingredients that don't seem necessary, stick to fresh fruits and veggies, and your meal management system is sure to reward you even more than ever before.